We continue to hear and read about sexual harassment in the workplace. This has especially been newsworthy since early 2017 with the Harvey Weinstein case, and the #MeToo Movement. But, I am certainly not the only writer, and many news outlets from newspapers to various social media channels to the United States Congress have provided various levels of coverage.
Recently, Google was in the news regarding sexual harassment when last week thousands of Google employees protested by walking-off their jobs. In addition to other workplace practice reasons, employees are seeking greater transparency regarding sexual harassment claims and the complaint process, including the use of arbitration.
Additionally, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) recently released their annual claim statistics, and the number of sexual harassment claims filed at the CHRO increased from 145 in 2017 to 235 this past year – a 62% increase!
Employers continually ask, what can they do to ensure their workplace is free from sexual harassment. Certainly, ensure that an Anti-Harassment policy is written, published and communicated, and provide Anti-Harassment training to all employees. As I stated in my blog from April of this year:
My Top 5 Best Practice Picks
- Have an Anti-Harassment policy in your employee handbook and disseminate it throughout the organization at least annually. Include that retaliation for bringing forth a complaint will not be condoned.
- Train all employees on what sexual harassment is, how to recognize it, what to do if it occurs and what will happen if an investigation is conducted. Conduct training annually.
- Ensure that employees have a safe and unbiased complaint channel to use. Don’t require that employees can only lodge a complaint with their supervisor.
- Train supervisors on the organization’s expectations of them, and their specific role in preventing sexual harassment. Include that the work environment is a professional environment, and unprofessional behavior is not allowed.
- Investigate any and all claims and complaints immediately.
These are great practices, yet, we continue to see sexual harassment cases in the media.
Remember the old saying of “proof is in the pudding”? As with many policies, programs and best practices, execution is the key element for success in changing workplace culture regarding sexual harassment. Among other tactics, execution can include:
- Leaders must be willing to execute on their policies – especially when it may be awkward or unpopular. As with any other critical component of culture – the tone is set at the top.
- Hold leaders accountable by including it in their performance evaluations and compensation bonus systems.
- Organizations must be able to the track results of the implemented processes and practices – such as training.
As with a sports team, the coach can develop a wonderful game plan, but the “special sauce” is executing the game plan flawlessly. This is no different with organizations ensuring a zero-tolerance sexual harassment culture.